It’s January at any gym across the globe: people are running on treadmills in front of big screen T.V.’s, on elliptical machines wearing headphones, reading magazines on stationary bicycles. They’re taking classes filled with loud music and instructors yelling encouragement, “You can do it!!” But you can’t “conquer” the body.
In this atmosphere the body and the mind are completely disconnected; the mind is distracted, seeking pleasure outside of the activity it perceives as a chore and the body is on autopilot—your Chi energy is distracted.
It’s a worldwide phenomenon. After a month of overindulgence on many levels (drinking, eating, lying around with books or movies) everyone is now reforming themselves, “getting back on track” in one huge collective movement to undo the damage of the past weeks. We partied with high energy over the holidays and now we’re partying in the gym with great enthusiasm and zeal, but little mindfulness. It’s hard to get real pleasure from exercise when there’s no connectedness.
Deep pleasure comes from training with attention and finesse and focusing your Chi energy.
Skill-oriented athletic arts and practices like Tai Chi, Qi Gong, yoga, Aikido, ballet and other forms of dance foster pleasure in movement, but only after commitment and discipline. There’s a difference between training your mind with persistence and attention so that something becomes second nature in the body, and “working out” on autopilot. The Happy Body exercise routine requires this kind of mindfulness, and the practice and mastery of it can bring deep pleasure over time.
The point of micro-progression is not to push but gradually improve, working toward goals that are based on clear standards. Just as a trained dancer knows exactly what to do when they hear the first notes of a waltz, someone immersed in their own Happy Body routine can measure their breath and follow through the movement in perfect form. It takes years to master a waltz, otherwise, you’re just approximating the steps.
Next time you exercise, choose to be mindful of your Chi.
Clients sometimes ask if they can modify the order of exercises for novelty or scramble the repetitions for “efficiency,” looking for shortcuts or ways to avoid the discipline of following the routine precisely. But you would never cut a move out of a tai chi sequence or a ballet performance. In order to master the Happy Body routine, you must trust it and follow it with mindfulness, without resistance. Resistance can come in the form of complaining about repetition, familiarity, the degree and control required, the speed of micro-progression.
However you call it: energy, qi, or chi, use it wisely.
At the heart of resistance is fear of change.